T.J. Thomson wins International Visual Communication Teaching Excellence Award

The US-based Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication announced that DMRCs Dr T.J. Thomson had won its fourth annual Visual Communication Teaching Excellence Award.

Thomson, a senior lecturer in Australia’s top-ranked School of Communication, won the award for a unit, CCB102: Multimedia Design, he created for the launch of the new bachelor of communication degree in 2019. The unit equips students to demonstrate knowledge of a defined audience, use industry-standard software to create media artefacts appropriate for targeted avenues, and communicate effectively across multiple avenues using design choices informed by visual theory.

Thomson designed it with the assistance of QUT’s Amanda Bellaby, Learning Designer in the Learning & Teaching Unit, who helped ensure the student perspective was kept at the forefront and also supported his nomination as a referee. Bellaby wrote in her support letter: ‘In acknowledgement of the research demonstrating educational benefits of authentic assessment, TJ designed his assessment items to emulate professional practice and to be analogous to the kinds of problems faced by professionals in the field. In doing so, he has helped his students to move from a purely intellectual understanding to enactment in practice’.

A panel of award-winning academics, including the 2020 and 2019 winners of the honour, judged the 85-page application Thomson assembled. The panel praised not only the student work produced in Thomson’s class but also the way he designed visual overviews of key class materials to aid comprehension and ensure clear expectations. This approach resonated with the judging panel as well as with students themselves.

Anonymous student feedback on the unit has included:

  • ‘I appreciate T.J.’s ways of teaching and his ability to organise and make the learning resources easy to comprehend’.
  • ‘This unit succeeded all prior expectations. Highly enjoyable, grade fairly and not only on content and what you can offer but on the effort you put in. Learning materials and lectures/tutorials all really helpful with all the content being applicable to the unit. Overall such an enjoyable class 10/10’.
  • ‘Absolutely brilliant unit! My favourite Media unit out of my 4-year double degree’.

‘Visual communication is such an integral part of our digital media environment and it’s delightful to see QUT being recognised in this area so we can continue to boost the visual literacies of the next generation’, Thomson said. ‘None of this would have been possible without the inspiring talent of our teaching teams and the behind-the-scenes folks who tirelessly support the design, delivery, and optimisation of our units’.

Thomson has been invited to attend the Association’s annual conference in August to showcase his work during its Innovations in Teaching panel.

The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) is a nonprofit organization of more than 3,700 educators, students and practitioners from around the globe. Founded in 1912, AEJMC is the oldest and largest alliance of journalism and mass communication educators and administrators at the tertiary level.

The QUT School of Communication is ranked first in Australia and 16th globally for media and communication studies, according to the 2021 QS World University Rankings. The School is housed in the Faculty of Education, Creative Industries, and Social Justice, a world leader in arts, media and design teaching and research, with extensive industry partnerships and a proven track record in growing the creative economy.